Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Historic Battle of Tegula (Zulu Wars)

Editoral note: originally written in September 2015 (!) this post was overlooked but the project still holds interest for me. As I have had nothing to post for awhile I thought I should fill in the gap....

Have no idea why my interest in the Zulu Wars but probably because I watched Zulu and Zulu Dawn movies in my early days and kept those images in my head.

Thus any magazine article about the Zulu and warfare involving that South African tribe strokes my interest.  An old wargame magazine description by Ian Knight [ Miniature Wargames  No.25 ] of the engagement between the colonists of Durban, Natal and the Zulu in 1838 had me thinking. (oh, oh, here we go off onto another "project" !! )

The abbreviated history goes something like this:

A Voortrekker deputation to Port Natal to ask the English Settlement for assistance against the Zulus was met with success. In 1838 John Cane and Robert Biggar with 14 other English settlers, 30 Hottentots and over 3000 native levies went as an expeditionary force in support to the Voortrekkers Commandos of Uys and Potgieter. (who were attacked a day before and were soundly defeated) After crossing the Tugela River the Expenditionary force came across the Zulu military kraal (camp) Ndondakusuka at the foot of the mountain but the lack of full resistance soon indicated that this was a trap and as dawn slowly appeared some 10,000 Zulu warriors appeared on the scene and fierce fighting ensued. The line of retreat across the river was cut off and the expeditionary force was surrounded. Thus on the 17th April 1838 ended the battle of Tugela,  Few of the expeditionary force escaped from this battle.
To distinguish the supporting Port Natal native troops, they were given white cloth head bands.  These "Hottentots" and some 400 of the natives were trained and armed with muskets, while the rest were armed as native warriors, some of which were Zulu expatriates.  This made the selection of figures easy and I simply added a green-stuff headband to those Natal allies. It was said that the natives would wind yards of cloth around their heads so the resulting headwear resembled a turban! This certainly helped in my modelling efforts as it is quite easy to apply too much green stuff to the small 15mm chaps.

 As with all my wargaming with the Zulu I use a heavily infused DBA style rules  (...thus far....) , so each force is of 12 elements - the Zulu look more numerous as I use double sized stands for them.  As I have yet to play this scenario I may indeed have them twice as large to equalize the effect from the Natal musket armed troops.   Because of the disproportional effect of firepower in the battles of this era, the Natal 'army' has 5 of its 12 elements as "rifle" armed, with the warriors equal to those of the Zulu.
The deployment is conjecture of course but does follow the DBA mandates.  The kraal starts with one additional defending element.  I may make the mountain smaller and closer to the Zulu side with the Natal army closer to the centre of the table.  In light of the historical battle, perhaps tell the Port Natal player that the idea is to save the army and not fight the Zulu....but the Zulu won't know this of course!
Not really pleased with the look of the table/basing and may change all this in the future but this small project is an interesting one for me.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Musings on numbers and bases

In the Lion Rampant rules, and while I have yet to exam, I must assume for TMWWBK rules also, hints are given by the author to increase or decrease the number of figures required for the game.

But really it comes down to the number of bases not the number of figures.  With that in mind, I mused about my 15mm Zulu collection and, having LOTS of Zulus but not all that many British, whether I could have 12 elements on each side but discount the actual number of figures that represents.  Let’s be honest, few of us would not envisage hundreds of natives descending upon the thin red line.  However with 12 figures for each opponent....well 12 vs 16 (18?) but not that disparaging all the gives not that dramatic effect.

However if one looks upon each stand equivalent to a figure, then 12 stands is a unit.  For the colonial types these can be of a single figure; but for the natives one can place 3, 4 or many more on each.  These multiple figure stands still equate to but one “figure” for the sake of the rules, but now we are talking about 4X as many on the table and giving more illusion to the masses of natives opposing the few colonials.

Having my samurai at hand, I laid out all my multiple figure stands to oppose the singles.  Looks like a massive outnumbering but each unit has only 12 elements.

If I were to make the multiple stands a bit smaller, both units would have the same frontage/width and thus equal in the eyes of the rules.

Just musings at this point but something I will look into for the future.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Late Medieval MAA horse

What can one do in a limited space but with lots of time?  Heck, glue plastic parts together!  During the summer I needed to kill time and do it still while doing something of the hobby.  So out came the model glue and I attacked the Perry box of plastic late medieval mounted knights.  Later they were painted, again not at my usual painting desk, but in the rather unnatural situation of sitting in a bus.  Time well used I believe.  Anytime is hobby time! 😉

one unit of knights for Lion Rampant

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Lion Rampant 'battered' and activation markers

I was taking my new Sengoku collection for a solo test spin with Lion Rampant rules yesterday.

The rules has the player activate and then conclude any actions such as combat or firing before moving to the next unit, with the player choosing the sequence depending upon tactical considerations.  However, sometimes the player will lose track of which unit has activated or not.  Or at least my memory can fail, especially if interrupted or needing to leave the table during the turn.  It may be necessary to mark those units already activated and obviously markers would be the solution. I therefore decided that one could combine the use of these markers to the requirement of “battered” indication for a unit into a single simple chit for the tabletop.
The Takeda marker showing both its 'battered' side and earth-coloured 'activated' reversed side.

I used MDF laser-cut very small rounds as they are uniform and thick as to allow ease of pickup from the table.  I painted one side with my usual “earth” tone colour [ as to be discrete on the table ] and the other side of the chit in the ‘colours’ of the retinue.
Showing the two respective clan markers. Obviously one does not need to do this, but I find it fulfilling ( I say with a bit of a grin )
I use the ‘colours’ side of this marker to indicate if the unit is “battered”.  The test to recover from this morale state is considered an activation and so if successful, the marker can be flipped over to reveal the ‘earth’ side.  Other units, as they complete their activation, an ‘earth’-side chit can be added so all in the game knows that it has been dealt with.
The markers in action.  The weakened samurai on the left are still battered while the two ashigaru units have done their activations.

Obviously this method need not be exclusive to these rules and can be useful for many other applications.  It may be simple but effective and one of those hand-slap lightbulb moments which are great to deal with the requirement but embarrassing to believe that you did not think of it earlier!

Friday, 20 January 2017

My Sengoku adversaries completed

To help the local owner of the figure manufacturer Kingsford Miniatures start his business, I bought a bunch and agreed to paint up a mounted unit of the Sengoku era Samurai for him to photo for his gallery page. To be honest, I did not do much research at that time into this conflict so just saw the letter character (meaning ‘great’) was cool enough and I put it on a black background for the sashimono - the small flags attached to the warrior’s back.  I did nothing with the remainder of the collection for the past 7 years and originally thought to use it for DBA.  But with the advent of the ‘Lion Rampant’ rules I became motivated to bring them out of storage.  Needed a shovel as they were deep in the back of the cabinet but I managed.
The Takeda mounted samurai with a rather antiquated horse archer model.  However I will use the unit modifier for ranged weapons.  Verses the Okudaira it will be old tactics mostly using bow within combat unit rather than devoted arquebus groups.  

I am a firm believer in completing both sides of a battle or conflict and I am always a bit tied to the realism of history so I endeavoured to stay to the actual history to gain a matching adversary for the Takeda Katsuyori whose mon -personal/family symbol- was painted on that first unit. I found my historical adversary in Okudaira Sadamasa whose sashimono device is a simple red and white pattern for ease of painting and the mon of a red fan.  His family was killed by Katsuyori who did not appreciate his departing after the death of Katsuyori’s father, Takeda Shingen who had Sadamasa’s family as hostage.  The Okudaira took part in the final campaign against the Takeda in 1582.
The newly painted Okudaira 'expert' fighting ashigaru.  The poses seem aggressive enough!

a samurai unit showing the use of different shapes and sizes of bases.
I have mounted all my units on bases of circles, ovals and rounds of various sizes which work well for these rules and look quite good in my eyes. I added tufts and model flowers to give a nice organic look to the terrain work.

Teppo unit.  My handgun units are 6 strong.

My Takeda ashigaru units are considered a mixed weapon yeoman classification so have some archers within.
The two clans clash near a farm house.

Besides the combat units,  the Okudaira have the addition of a musical party sporting a large uma jirushi standard with the red fan personal symbol which is used also on the conch shell horn-blower's tunic and on the war drum.

Monday, 16 January 2017

"Great leader, is getting shot at the best course of action??"

Played a great game of "The Men Who Would Be Kings" Osprey rules (TMWWBK) hosted be WillB at the recent club night.  It was an interesting scenario, apparently straight out of the rule book, having, in this case, WillB's  c.1880 era Russians Colonial forces on one end of the table with the British and Imperial forces opposite and both needing to move to the other end to win respectively. The Afghans (under my dubious command) were in the middle, unfriendly to both.

The rules have the players roll up their leaders in a very role-playing fashion. This sometimes provides bonus and...sometimes not.  For instance, one of my Afghan sword-wielding units had a coward for a leader and so could not charge (!) and thus not the most potent of offensive units....

Another unit had a leader smoking hashish (it is assumed) for a separate roll of a d6 each turn determines the units leadership roll - good or poor -whether he was hyper or dulled by the influence!  [ for the record he was super-leader during the entire battle ]

Or the red-clad "regulars", who had an 'idiot' for a leader.  If the commanding player roles a 1 on a d6 should he wish to do anything with this unit, it is not he but the enemy player who commands them.  Obviously then, that player is most likely issue an order contrary to his best benefit!  Of course, should a roll of a 1 be detrimental, I will, more likely than not,  roll it.  And so it was in this game that, not once, but twice (!!), the unit was brought out from the safety of the rooftop into the open for the Russian player (PeterM) to shoot them down. (the quote of the post title is the ranker's response to this action I would add)
the Afghan regulars with an idiot for a leader ( note that the Afghan national flag during the era was simply a solid black banner with no markings)  Building and figures painted by and in the collection of WillB.

Neither Imperialist gained their game winning conditions so the victory went to the Afghans.  Another interesting and fun game with the TMWWBK rules.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

ECW pike rebasing...again...sigh...

What is it with me and my ECW collection?  How many times will I rebase the darn thing?!

Well, OK, this rebasing (the fourth, or is it the fifth time?) is only the pike elements and not the entire collection.  I made the visual/mental error in thinking - regarding my own predilections - that the pike should remain in a regular formation of even ranks and files.  But this basing contrasted with the rest of the collection - another visual "unifying" predilections kicking in, I guess - so I finally decided that the circular basing would indeed work also for the pike.  I had to order for new mdf bases.......

Here is a comparison of the two styles:
old (in rear), new (in front) and hopefully the final basing of these units painted almost thirty years ago!
As the poses of my old pike units do vary considerably, the irregular pattern now does rather compliments than distracts - in my jaded opinion.   More skirmish-y look also, which is the feel of the rules (a Lion Rampant version or the newer Pikemen's Lament).
the 'old' basing to the left, newer to the right
I have the 12 pikemen glued onto four bases with a 4 figure, 3, 2, and 1 figure base of different sizes/shapes to allow for any varying number of casualties to be removed.

The interesting visual perception, for me at least,  is it having a much "tighter" formation with the newer circular bases even though the width is but ten percent shorter than the older square style.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Another Napoleonic ambulance

Following a rather fun production of a Russian Field Station (link), I sought to do a "the after-effects of combat"  for each of my Napoleonic armies.  What this says about my phycology vis-a-vis playing war but having enjoyment with toy soldiers is something I do not want to contemplate - mainly as it takes away from the fun! But it is something interesting to look at and eye-candy to place within the blank spaces on the tabletop.

This Belgian ambulance started as the Perry ACW version ( link )  I coveted and which I saw the possibility to convert.  Surprisingly little was needed.  Of course the heads needed to be replaced as to provide the appropriate headgear.  I added tails and turnbacks to the tunics along with epaulettes and cuff-flaps. The Belgians often tucked their trousers into the half gaiters so the pants, together with  the era's mens fashion having them wear loose under shirt and suspenders, has the original ACW fellow standing at the back of the wagon not out of place and thus without need of change.

The wagon, perhaps confiscated from a hapless Brussels civilian, surrounded by the Perry casualty pack, sets the scene of the clean up of the carnage of Waterloo.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Napoleonic skirmish (Flintloque-ish)

Hosted a “Napoleonic Skirmish” game using my old collection of 40mm-ish Flintloque figures; fantasy figures of the Napoleonic era and loosely based upon -originally- the ‘Sharpe’ series of historical fiction novels by Bernard Cornwell.  But now it has expanded to included toads, dogs, undead and other such creatures.
Years ago a local fellow was a major distributor who wanted some painted which I did in exchange for some of the figures.  I went about divesting the Orcs (their British types) of the tusks, the Elves (their French “Franche”) of pointy ears, and gathered together different historical units of Bog Orcs (their Irish) for a collection geared for the Peninsular War in Spain.
I tried to keep it roughly historical; the uniforms are as close as the sculpting allows.

Units are all the same size, no national characteristics, all fight the same.  And no 'morale'; all continue to move along happily until 'dead'.  Simplicity reduces the necessity of the number of rules to remember quite a bit I found.  Thus rules are homemade and simple…real simple…for a convention setting you understand.
The kinda rules that have 6’s and 1’s hit regardless.  Why the “and 1s” you ask?  I seem only to roll 1’s and I want to have hits too!  Actions by the highest card played by each of the players.  Combat conducted with the highest dice rolled.  That sort of rules in play.  A five year old should certainly understand it, so it hopefully should work well enough at the local wargames club for a pick-up game……
the version of "Sweet William" and the 60th
the French Grenadiers
The French howitzer.   A 40mm Perry gun; which gives you some perspective on the scale of the figures.
My whole collection, with each unit of 10 figures. British and Allies to the left, French and Allies in the middle, and Spanish to the right.  
photos from the game:
the version of the French Imperial Guard Fusiliers-Chasseurs (front) and Fusiliers-Grenadiers (rear)
Were these in Spain?  Don't know or care, but the uniforms matched the figures!
Spanish Walloon Regiment (the uniforms seem near enough)
British Light Infantry.  Sculpts with short legs, big hands, big heads!  Lots of character nonetheless....

The game itself?  Well ....I was massacred. Enough said.  :)

Friday, 18 November 2016

the 100Days Campaign Part 1

I volunteered to use my collection to occasionally fight out the miniatures battles of a campaign organized by David (see:link) Not knowing of the players or their intentions, it is very interesting getting "marching orders" without knowing the larger picture.  Just as a soldier in like real life!

Part 1 of this campaign (for me) was the playing out of the maneuvers of the players for the Battle of Thuin.

Battle of Thuin…the morning.

It was a wonderful asset to have a portion of the reserve to reinforce his contingent Steinmetz mused. But for it to be of full use, it must be deployed, along with his own artillery, in the open plain in front of the town.  To protect the guns, he was forced to deploy before the town and not in the better defensive position within, and thus, in the open.  He hoped the guns might reduce the French attack but it would depend upon the numbers the French would place against him.  He certainly wondered why he was so isolated.

Steinmetz deployed his meager units in a line south of the town, with the jagers in the woods in a position to offer a threat to the French left as they advanced from the south.  The various limbers, wagons and caissons of the artillery were arrayed in an area to the north-west of the town along the road network.

The French General Vandamme certainly did not believe in subtlety and advanced on a broad front with his horse on the far right (east) to swing in behind Thuin to cut off any Prussian retreat.
He soon discovered the firepower of the extra guns used by the Prussians but continued to press the point. One of Lefol’s brigades recoiled out to the woods in a failed attempt to clear the Prussian jagers and Vandamme was forced to move his reserve of Girard’s small division to keep the jagers threat at bay.

The height of the French (top) attack on Steinmetz's Prussians (bottom) before the town of Thuin
With the massed Prussian guns slowly reducing his effectiveness, Vandamme had no choice but to move into the Prussian infantry defending the guns in a sweeping attack, even though at poor odds. From 10am to noon, there was attack and counter attack as the guns boomed.

Hearing the cannon fire, French Cavalry General Kellerman hastened his pace; but shortly, exhausted couriers gave him word of a Prussian cavalry force following him.  As he gave a questioning thought of how did the Germans get in behind him, he issued orders to about face and meet this new threat.  Those officers whose units were indeed among the Prussian wagons placed behind Thuin also gave pause to question why, in the moment of attack, they were ordered to about face and move away, but such is the maneuvers of war.
Kellerman's foremost units among the Prussian rear echelon before being ordered to about-face.

However, the effect of masses of French cavalry near the Prussian rear echelon and the subsequent panic by the wagoners strained the morale of the Prussian force which, for the moment held, as the 24th Regiment counterattacked to protect the guns and the 12th refused its left from being outflanked.

The indomitable red-coated Swiss of Habert’s Brigade broke the 24th exposing the whole Prussian centre. So by noon the Prussian line was essentially broken with their substantial artillery intact but near to be overrun with nowhere to retreat as the town would inhibit any rapid withdrawal.
The red tunics of the Swiss of Habert's Brigade in assault of the Prussian guns 

Battle of Thuin…. the afternoon

Around noon Vandamme needed to reorganize his infantry supports bringing fresh troops in his continuing head-on attacks on the massed Prussian guns.  While these attacks forced the Prussian guns to flee, the French suffered further casualties but nonetheless were in a position to take the village of Thuin by 2pm.

To the north of Thuin, Kellerman with his heavy cavalry now facing the new Prussian force from the north.  Leaving his small contingent of horse-artillery on the road he extended his troops to the right. The leading Prussian light horse fell back from the French advance exposing the columns of Ziethen's Prussian infantry in squares and the Prussian artillery which quickly eliminated the French cannon. Now faced with a large corps sized force ready to withstand any charge, with a good cavalry reserve and plenty of artillery, Kellerman was forced with the impossibility of attack due to the complete lack infantry support and, if remaining in position, only the slow destruction of his force by cannon fire. Rather than wait for the infantry of Vandamme to mop up the Prussian forces remaining around Thuin to eventually come to his ‘rescue’, Kellerman would again about-face his horsemen and cross the river to link up with Vandamme.

As Kellerman was facing his choices to the north, Surprisingly, the Prussian morale of Steinmetz’s command at Thuin was still holding (the required 6 was rolled!) allowing some of the remaining Prussian units to take a defensive position in the eastern section of the town.

In spite of Vandamme’s success, his was spent force by 2pm, and no more action would be taken.  He spent the rest of the day consolidating his force south of the town.
The Prussians of Pirch II in Ziethen's Corps included the 28th Regiment (ex-Berg) clothed in white tunics.  The cube on the base of the 6th Regiment (at the right) shows it to be in square to defend itself against Kellerman's heavy cavalry during this Battle of Thuin

 Kellerman retreated before Ziethen [ “My command then advanced in a different direction” he wrote in his report to Napoleon ] and fell into the fleeing Prussian limbers and caissons of the Prussian Reserve Artillery thus eliminating this force from the campaign. Late in the afternoon he would meet up with Vandamme south of Thuin.
The French Carabineers (in the distance, with Kellerman directing) continue to face Zeithen's Prussians while the rest of the cavalry corps retreat advance in a different direction led by the 11th Cuirassier Regiment (who were without cuirasses during the campaign)
The rather haphazard retreat of the Prussian artillery assets of Steinmetz's command (shown in a limbered state by the wheels on the bases).  The knapsack marker indicates they are also disordered by retreating from the French.  These would soon be destroyed by Kellerman's French cavalry.
Ziethen's Prussian Corps

Zeithen for his part, was confused about the French intentions and so halted his advance at the north side of the bridge.
Ziethen ponders the rather unsupported maneuvers by the French

Steinmetz remaining very weak brigade held half the town but any further French attacks would inevitably have it destroyed.